While we move closer to this anniversary of, what became, division in the church, we might look further at the moves in recent decades to heal the division and work towards some form of unity. Martin Marty writes:
“Late twentieth-century Lutheran-Catholic and larger ecumenical statements and moves appeared not in a simple culture of homogeneity, but one of great diversity within and around the church. Five hundred years ago, there was diversity among the people, even though most were Christian and rarely met anyone from a culture that did not have a Christian lineage. In contrast today, five hundred years later, to speak of religion without reckoning with diversity and pluralism is very limiting. Historians, social scientists, demographic experts, as well as anyone professionally involved in matters of religion have to deal with great variety. We are told, for instance, that there are now some forty thousand Christian denominations in the world. Part of Luther’s legacy.” (October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day that Changed the World, p.57)
“If 1517 symbolizes the great breach within Western Christianity, any efforts to repair it merit attention.
While wars, enmities, and defamations of ‘the other’ dominated for more than four centuries, thoughtful Christians were aware that they were living a lie or revealing a weakened conscience whenever in their creeds they said that they believed in ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church’ but did nothing to see that faith realized. Doing anything about it must have seemed almost impossible, since the destinies of Reformation Christianity and Catholicism were so tied into accepted patterns of commerce, nationhood, and culture that it was hard to know where to start to realize anything about the ‘oneness’ of the church.” (ibid, p.59-60)
Relating to statement 83: “The medieval theologian Gabriel Biel had dealt with this question in relation to Masses for baptized children (who were not subject to purgatory). Canon law did not allow prayers for the souls of saints or for the damned.” (The Roots of Reform, p.44)
79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
83. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”
84. Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”
85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”
86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”
88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”